Short Stories: Service with a Smile

Author’s Note: Originally created for the Fantasy-Faction January 2017 Writing Contest.


The Ventum Toribus Circle, 43 Blackgate Lane. Find your cure there.

Jake Woodcastle looked at the address written on the small scrap of paper and shivered. A gust of wind buffeted into him, sending his coat-tails billowing in the breeze. For a brief moment, Jake swore he could hear someone giggle in his ear, but a quick look showed there was no-one on the street around.

He quickened his pace.

It had been 5 days now. 5 days since it started.

At first it was a few minor incidents, barely noticeable in the grand scheme of things. A pen came apart in his hand, spilling ink on his shirt. A jogger accidentally ran into him. He stubbed his toe on an old dresser. Unfortunate yes, but nothing to worry about too much.

Then things started getting worse.

A waiter carrying scalding hot coffee tripped and almost severely burned him. His car lost control out of nowhere, nearly sending him careening off a bridge. A fire burnt his workplace to the ground. And those were just the more obvious incidents.

At this point, Jake was beginning to get unsettled. One near-death accident was one thing, but so many? In such a short period of time? That had to be more than mere coincidence, right?

That was when the truly strange things started happening.

Giggling laughter heard from empty rooms. Blood-like substances pouring from the faucet. Handprints appearing on his bedroom walls. And the nightmares… Jake hadn’t slept for days. He couldn’t risk it. Not with what he’d seen.

Jake had searched everywhere for a solution to his woes. Occult books, spiritual mediums, back-alley magic stores, Google. Hell, he was desperate enough to try searching on Bing. Nothing he found helped. There was nothing but fruitless rumours, scam artists and frauds to be found.

Well, almost.

As luck would have it, he stumbled across one person who posted a story about the exact sorts of things happening to them. Right down the vivid descriptions of the nightmares he suffered every night. He was told that the curse was one that would kill him within a week. However, the person managed to find a cure by visiting the abode of a mysterious exorcist.

That was the address Jake was heading to now. His final hope. His last chance. The one thing he was putting all his faith in, that he prayed would be able to save him…

Which is why he was disappointed when he turned onto Blackgate Lane… to find a single ordinary coffee shop.

No occult store. No exorcist’s lair. Just a clean, pleasant-looking coffee shop.

Jake cursed under his breath. Either his directions were wrong or he’d been misled once again. He could only pray it was the former, but if his directions were indeed incorrect, he wasn’t sure how he could find the correct house he was looking for.

As it was, there was only one choice of action. Go into the coffee shop and ask for directions. And possibly get a mocha while he was at it.

“Good afternoon!” The waitress said with a beaming smile. “Can I get your order?”

“Yes, can I get a Caramel Mocha?” Jake said, walking casually up to the counter.

“Right away, sir.” The waitress said, typing the order into her till. “Anything else?”

“Actually, now that you mention it, I was wanting to ask about something…” Jake said hesitantly. “Do you know the…” He pulled out the scrap of paper. “…Ventum Toribus Circle? I was told it was around here?”

“The Circle? Of course I know it.” The waitress snorted. “That’s this shop. You’re standing in it.”

Jake blinked. “Eh?”

“Yeah, the shop’s full name is the Ventum Toribus Coffee Circle.” The waitress explained. “Although we also do a range of sandwiches and scones if you’re interested.”

“O-Oh…” Jake felt his heart sink. “I guess I got misled then…”

“Misled?” The waitress tilted her head. “Misled how?”

“Well, it’s a funny thing.” Jake said with a bitter chuckle. “I was told that this was a place I could get an exorcism done.”

“Exorcisms?” The waitress said. “Oh no, you weren’t misled at all then. We do those as well.”

“…I’m sorry?”

“Yeah, we run it as a side business here.” The waitress explained, pulling out a pentacle necklace from beneath her shirt. “Exorcism doesn’t tend to bring in much money these days, so we opened the coffee shop to help make ends meet.”

“You seriously do exorcisms here?” Jake gripped the counter so hard he was worried it might crack. “I will pay whatever you want if you can help me. Please!”

The waitress looked him up and down. Then she took off her apron and waved Jake over to a small side room, near the back.

“Hey Kevin!” She shouted to a burly registrar in the kitchen. “Watch the counter for me! I’ve got someone who needs our ‘special’ services.”

“Gotcha.” Kevin said. “Try not to curse anyone this time, Sam.”

“Ah, that was one time, you big dolt.” The waitress, Sam, rolled her eyes. She gestured at Jake. “Come on, I don’t have all day.”

She opened the door to reveal a storeroom packed to brim with various supernatural knick-knacks. Crystal balls, magical circles, books with garish covers and artefacts that seemed ancient and brimming with potential power.

Sam casually walked past each of these and took a seat on a mottled old chair. “Okay, bub. Tell me exactly what’s been bothering you and I’ll see if I can help.”

As Jake went into a full explanation of everything that had happened to him the last few days, the way he’d been terrorised and nearly killed, Sam’s smile slowly faded into a pensive frown.

“Okay, it sounds like a fairly basic curse.” She said. “I should be able to remove that easily enough. But I’m a bit hesitant to do so at the moment.”

“Wha-Why not?” Jake spluttered.

“Because if I do, there’s a decent chance someone might just put it back.” Sam explained. “See, these kinds of curse don’t come out of nowhere, they need someone to place them. Tell me, before these accidents started happening to you, did you receive any threatening notes in the mail? Or maybe someone drew something on your back? A old crazy witch perhaps?”

“No.” Jake shook his head. “Nothing like that. I can’t imagine anyone who’d want me dead like that, let alone anyone who knows any kind of dark magic.”

Sam scratched her chin. Then a thought clearly struck her. “Say, do you have email on your phone?”

Jake’s brow furrowed. “Yes. Why do you ask?”

“Pass it here for a second.”

Jake hesitantly passed over his mobile to the waitress/exorcist. Sam quickly switched it on and dove into Jake’s inbox, skimming through a few sections until she found what she was clearly looking for.

“Ah! Here you go!” She said, passing the phone back. “It was hidden in your spam folder.”

Jake frowned and looked down at the screen. The email Sam had highlighted looked like one of those annoying chain letters he had seen every so often.

Beware! If you receive this message, you must send it on to five other people or else you will be cursed! If you do not, the spirits of damned will haunt you for 7 days with bad luck and haunted dreams before they finally kill you! The only way to avoid this fate is to send this email on to five other people before time runs out!

“…I got cursed by a freaking chain letter?!

Sam shrugged. “Happens more often than you might think.”

Jake felt his eye twitch. “But you can fix it, right?”

“Sure.” Sam said, reaching out a hand. “Give me the phone back.”

Jake did so. Sam pressed a few buttons, fiddled around with something for a few minutes and passed the phone back once more.

“There. Done.” She said. “Curse is gone.”

“Really?” Jake blinked. “That was fast. What did you do?”

“Sent the email on to five other people.” Sam said bluntly. “I could’ve done the full exorcism, but it’s just a lot cheaper and easier this way. Exorcisms tend to be fairly violent.”

“But… what about the five people you sent it to?”

“They’ve been dead for years.” Sam said. “I severely doubt they’ll mind being a little cursed as well.”

“So… it’s done.” Jake said, feeling numb. “I’m finally safe.”

“Indeed you are.” Sam smiled and clasped her hands. “Now, is there anything else you need from us?”

Jake felt like a huge weight had been lifted from his chest. “No. That’s all.” He gave a relieved smile. “Thank you so so much for this, by the way. If there’s anything I can do to repay you, anything at all…”

Sam let out a low chuckle. “Well, there is one thing…

Cafe Reviews: The Ventum Toribus Coffee Circle.

J. Woodcastle

Five stars! Excellent atmosphere and helpful staff! The Caramel Mocha’s need improvement though…

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